This architectural design award is supported by the McKnight Foundation. Its goal is to recognize and encourage innovative, high-quality design for affordable housing.

The next submission window for this award will be in 2024.

Through this award program we aim to:

  • Improve the visibility and stature of affordable housing design to increase public support of affordable housing.
  • Recognize design and development teams and affordable housing organizations that have designed excellent, affordable housing projects.
  • Encourage a broad understanding of how financing mechanisms, cost, diverse client populations and community-based design processes contribute to a completed work of architecture.
  • Elevate affordable housing that advances environmental justice and equity.

Submission is open to all affordable housing design projects, ranging from single-family homes to transitional housing to affordable apartment buildings.


Diverse project types are eligible: single-family homes to large supportive housing projects to temporary shelters, including renovation, adaptive reuse, mixed-use and new construction projects. Previous winners of this award are not eligible.

Projects must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Projects must be completed and placed in use within the last seven years (1/1/2015 or more recent), including individual buildings, groups of buildings, preservation or restoration of existing buildings, or building interiors.
  • Design work must be done by an AIA Minnesota member, or group of members, who practice in accordance with Minnesota architecture registration laws and comply with federal wage and labor laws by not employing unpaid intern architects.
    Design work must be completed in Minnesota by an AIA Minnesota member or members. For project teams, a majority of the design work must have been done in Minnesota.
  • Project must provide a minimum of one housing unit or shelter bed.
  • Project should incorporate the Framework for Design Excellence and advance healthy, resilient, climate-responsive design solutions.
  • A minimum of 20 percent of the housing units (but no less than one unit) are either occupied by or set aside for residents with incomes at a maximum of 80 percent of the Area Median Income, or the project utilizes any recognized affordable housing financing vehicle. Project should exceed local minimum requirements for affordable units within specific zoning.
  • Additional consideration will be given to projects that address deep affordability, and to projects with significant community impact.

2022 Affordable Housing Design Award Recipients

AIA Minnesota and the McKnight Foundation proudly announce that the Two-Level Infill House by Office Hughes Olsen and A-Mill Artist Lofts by BKV Group are the winners of the 2022 Affordable Housing Design Award.

Read the release.

2020 Affordable Housing Design Award Recipient

AIA Minnesota and the McKnight Foundation proudly announce that Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis’s Higher Ground Saint Paul is the winner of the 2020 Affordable Housing Design Award.

Recognized for the award is Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis; Cermak Rhoades Architects (now part of LHB, Inc.); Watson-Forsberg; Coen and Partners; Mattson Macdonald Young; Emanuelson Podas; and Pierce Pini & Associates. 

Read the release.

2018 Affordable Housing Design Award Recipient

AIA Minnesota and The McKnight Foundation are proud to announce that RS EDEN’s Emanuel Housing, designed by Cermak Rhoades Architects, is the 2018 recipient of the Affordable Housing Design Award. The project provides permanent affordable housing in a vibrant neighborhood, with health care and supportive services available on site.

Recognized with RS EDEN and Cermak Rhoades are Frerichs Construction; Pierce Pini + Associates; Spencer Jones Landscape Architect; Mattson Macdonald Young; and Emanuelson-Podas, Inc.

Read the release.
View the Emanuel Housing video.

Past Recipients

2016  Recipient

Dominium Development’s Schmidt Artist Lofts is the winner of the 2016 Affordable Housing Design Award.Located in St. Paul, this long-vacant landmark was transformed into a dynamic, affordable live-work location for local artists, while simultaneously maintaining the historically intrinsic features of the brewery.

Recognized for the award is Dominium Development; BKV Group; Weis Builders; Peer Engineering; MacRostie Historic Advisors; MacDonald & Mack Architects; Loucks Associates; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates; Pfister Associates; The Weidt Group; US Bank; Alliant Capital; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors; St. Paul PED; Ramsey County; the Metropolitan Council; and MN DEED.

Download the release.
View the Schmidt Artist Lofts video.

2015 Recipient

Trolley Quarter Flats, located in Wausau, WI, is a historic former trolley shed that was given new life as part of a 40-unit affordable housing complex (pictured above.) Designed by architectural firm MSR and its community partner MetroPlains, LLC.

Download the press release.
View the Trolley Quarter Flats video.

2014 Recipient

Clare Midtown, in Minneapolis — designed by architectural firm Cermak Rhoades Architects, Inc., and their community partner, Clare Housing, Inc.

Download the press release.
View the Clare Midtown video.

2013 Recipient

Renaissance Box, in St. Paul — designed by the architectural firm LHB, Inc., and their community partner, Aeon. 

Download the press release.
View the Renaissance Box video.

2012 Recipient

Higher Ground – Homeless Shelter & Permanent Housing, in Minneapolis — designed by the architectural firm Cermak Rhoades Architects, Inc., and their community partner, Catholic Charities.

Download the press release.
View the Higher Ground video.